Public Relations 101: Ten Tips for Writing an Effective Press Release
[By Tony Popowski]
In case you are unfamiliar with the term, press releases are written or recorded company announcements that are pitched to the media. After a reporter receives a press release, he or she has the option of running it directly into a publication (typical for online media) or developing a new story based on your information (typical for print media). Here are ten tips for writing an effective press release:
- Make It Newsworthy!
Company Buys Hamster For Office - Bad
It's great that everything in your company is exciting to you... it doesn't mean the media will feel the same way. Avoid sending out blatantly self-promoting releases that boast how good your services are or boring topics no one cares about (no offense to hamster lovers). Instead, write about exciting and emerging trends, interesting survey results and news that people can use.
- Always Put Your Best Foot Forward.
"I just had a ham sandwich. Oh yeah, the president is visiting town." - Bad
Journalists won't waste their time searching through your release trying to find something newsworthy. Grab their attention right away. The most important information should always come in your headline and opening statements.
- Use Facts... And Make Sure They're True.
"99% of beavers have been to Saturn." - Bad
Using facts to back up your points gives you more credibility. However, make sure your source is reliable and quadruple-check that your facts are true.
- Get Permission From Your Sources.
"Just between us Tony, I'm going to sell the company." -->
Breaking News: Company Is Sold! - Bad
Nothing makes a person more angry than when their more private quotes are released to the public. This is especially true for CEOs who can fire you for spilling the beans. Make sure that all sources give you permission for their quotes and have seen a copy of your press release before pitching it to the media.
- Avoid Exaggerations.
"Company To Hold Seriously The Best End-All Most Awesome Event of All Time!!!!!!!!!" - Bad
If you have to "fluff" your releases to make it sound more exciting, chances are it wasn't exciting enough to begin with. If your topic is strong and newsworthy, it will speak for itself.
- Don't Use Company Jargon.
"Companies should be using an IMC approach next quarter." - Bad
If you work in the marketing field, you know that IMC stands for Integrated Marketing Communication. The general public wouldn't know this, so make sure everything is explained for the reader.
- Follow AP (Associated Press) Format.
"Sports Team Adds 3 New Star Players to Roster" - Bad
This one is more tricky. There are many AP format rules and guidelines to follow when writing your press release. For example, numbers under ten should be spelled out (Sports Team Adds Three New Star Players to Roster). Pick up an AP Format Guide to make sure you follow the rules.
- End With A Strong Call To Action.
"From everyone at our company, have a good day." - Bad
Conclude your press release by telling the readers what you want them to do. Are you trying to get them to come to your event? Do you want them to participate in your next survey? Give instructions on what should be the next step.
- Include An Informative Boilerplate.
"Tony's Store is a local company. Call us." - Bad
The boilerplate goes at the bottom of your press release and serves as a company overview. It includes your primary focus of business, contact information and other notable information such as distinguished awards or records. Think of it as an "elevator speech" for your company.
- Designate A Contact Person For Reporters.
"This is our press release. Take it or leave it." - Bad
Sometimes, reporters may have more questions about your release. They also might be writing a different story and would like to use you as a source. This is great... but only if they know who to call. Designate someone at your company to be the contact person. The ideal person is a good speaker, subject matter expert and has the ability to explain information on simple terms for others. Make sure this person's contact information is clearly and separately identified for reporters.